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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Town Hall Meeting with Andrew Yang (D), Presidential Candidate. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired April 14, 2019 - 19:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[18:59:25]

CABRERA: Welcome back to Washington. We are live for back-to-back CNN Democratic presidential town halls. I'm Ana Cabrera. We just heard from Marianne Williamson; now it is Andrew Yang's turn.

Yang is a businessman who has become successful as a tech executive. He is a former ambassador for global entrepreneurship under the Obama administration. And if elected, yang would make history as the first Asian American president.

In our audience tonight, Democrats and independents who say they plan to participate in the Democratic primaries and caucuses. Please welcome Andrew Yang.

(APPLAUSE)

YANG: Hello, hello, hello. Thank you all.

CABRERA: Welcome.

YANG: Thank you.

CABRERA: You've got a crowd that's fired up and ready for you.

(APPLAUSE)

YANG: Thank you.

CABRERA: So I saw recently that you were proposing potentially doing some campaigning via hologram. In fact, I think we have a little example, testing it out here with the hologram of Tupac, you rapping, your hologram...

YANG: Yes.

CABRERA: ... rapping there with him.

YANG: As you can see, I'm giving him a run for his money.

(LAUGHTER)

CABRERA: I'm actually, in all seriousness, wondering, are you campaigning anywhere else right now?

YANG: How do you know it's me in this chair?

(LAUGHTER)

Right now, this is the only place I am.

CABRERA: We're glad to have you. And we have a lot of great questions for you. Let's begin. We have Emily Benson here. She lives here in Washington and works for a non-partisan think-tank. Emily, go ahead.

QUESTION: Artificial intelligence has contributed to job automation, leading to significant job losses in multiple sectors. How do you propose regulating AI to ensure continued human employment? And what do you propose in terms of reskilling programs to keep Americans competitive in the computer and machine age?

YANG: What a phenomenal questions. And this is, in many ways, one of the key challenges we're facing as a country. We have to face why Donald Trump won the election of 2016. He won by the numbers because we'd automated away 4 million manufacturing jobs in Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Missouri, Iowa, all the swing states he needed to win and did win.

And I have many friends who work in technology and they know that what we did to the manufacturing jobs we are now going to do to the retail jobs, the call center jobs, the fast food jobs, and most disastrously, the trucking jobs in the days to come.

So we need to think much bigger about how we're going to help Americans transition through this time. And if you look at the data around retraining and education programs, unfortunately, they tend to be largely ineffective for many displaced workers. The effectiveness rate for manufacturing workers with federally funded retraining programs are between zero and 15 percent.

So we need to think bigger about how we're going to help Americans transition. And my flagship proposal, which many of you have probably heard of, is a freedom dividend of $1,000 per month for every American adult starting at age 18. This would create 2 million new jobs in our economy. It would make children and families stronger and healthier and would help tens of millions of Americans transition through what is the greatest economic and technological transformation in our country's history, which is what we're going through right now.

CABRERA: Mr. Yang, we'll talk a little bit more about the freedom dividend here in just a moment, but let me just follow up with you. You have said you can't stop automation, don't even try. But why not intervene?

YANG: Well, if you look at it, you don't think about 30 percent of American malls closing in the next four years as an automation or AI problem. But then when you trace the steps, Amazon is sucking up $20 billion in commerce every year and that's what's causing 30 percent of malls and stores to close. And if you go to an Amazon fulfillment center, you see it's wall to wall robots, and they're investing billions of dollars in AI. So it's very, very difficult to stop this process. We have to instead

think about how we can make Americans prosperous through this time. The goal should not be to save jobs. The goal should be to make our lives better.

CABRERA: OK, let get to our next audience question. This is David Han. He is a lawyer working for the Department of Veterans Affairs and is a supporter of yours, Mr. Yang.

YANG: Yes.

(LAUGHTER)

CABRERA: He has a question about your -- he has a question about the freedom dividend. Go ahead, David.

QUESTION: All right. Andrew, when you speak about the cost of basic income, you've indicated that the freedom dividend would be opt in or otherwise offset by savings from current spending on entitlement programs. What is your message for veterans, disabled persons, and families receiving TANF benefits, specifically with the concern that they might benefit less from the freedom dividend than other Americans would?

YANG: It's a tremendous question. And the goal is to make an economy that works for everyone, a trickle-up economy from people, families, and communities up. And though the freedom dividend might help certain Americans more than others, depending upon their current benefits, programs or enrollments, the goal is to make it so we don't stop necessarily at the freedom dividend.

So if someone is a veteran on disability, and we see that those benefits are not sufficient -- for example, right now, 22 veterans and soldiers are committing suicide every day, which is an incredibly tragic and horrifying figure. And that's the kind of thing we need to put massive resources in place to combat. The freedom dividend does not solve all problems for all people, but hopefully it will move us in the right direction.

CABRERA: So let me ask you, if you're proposing to give every single American adult $1,000 dollars a month, $12,000 a year, after they turn 18, that would include people like Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, Warren Buffett. Why do billionaires need the freedom dividend?

[19:05:00]

YANG: Well, if you look at what's going on in our country right now, there's one state that has a dividend of between $1,000 and $2,000 per year, and that state is Alaska, where it's universal, it's funded by a petroleum fund.

And so in Alaska, they don't go around saying, hey, are you rich, and you don't get it if you're doing worse, then maybe we'll give it to you. And the benefits are enormous because then all Americans can get excited about it as a right of citizenship. You don't have any stigma attached to it. You don't need to frame it as a rich to poor transfer. And you don't need to monitor everyone's income at any given moment in time.

So there are massive benefits to making it universal. And in Alaska, it has stood the test of time for almost four decades under multiple administrations, where now it's wildly popular, has created thousands of jobs, has improved children's health, and has helped decrease income inequality. So what they're doing in Alaska with oil we can do for the rest of the country with technology.

CABRERA: But in a scale, obviously -- and Alaska is different than what we're talking about, when you're looking at more than 200 million Americans across the country here. How are you going to pay for this?

YANG: Well, if you think about who are going to be the biggest winners from AI to the first question, or new technologies or self- driving cars and trucks, it's going to be Amazon, Google, Facebook, Uber, the biggest tech companies in our country. And we all saw, how much did Amazon pay in federal taxes last year?

AUDIENCE: Zero.

YANG: They paid less in federal taxes than you all. So when people ask how are we going to fund this, we have to go where the money is. We have to implement a new mechanism to get that money back from Jeff Bezos and Amazon and bring it back to the American people to build a trickle-up economy.

(APPLAUSE)

CABRERA: Isn't going to, though, trickle down to the consumer? The price of that is going to trickle down to the consumer, right?

YANG: Well, the great thing is, I speak to CEOs about this, and they know it's better for their companies if consumers have money to spend. This is capitalism where income doesn't start at zero. And if you can imagine, if you're watching this at home, imagine your life, your family, your community with everyone getting $1,000 a month. Are you going to buy more stuff? Yes. Are you going to go out more often? Yes. You going to get those car repairs you've been putting off? Yes. And all that money ends up circulating back through the economy, creating jobs, in your community where you live.

CABRERA: Patrick Litke is here. He's originally from New York. He's now a student at the George Washington University and is a member of the College Democrats. Patrick?

QUESTION: All right, so after your interview on David Pakman's show, I decided to check out your policy page, and I notice it doesn't make much mention of unions. What are your plans for organized labor, potentially in light of the automation crisis?

YANG: Yeah. I'm a huge union fan. And this freedom dividend that I'm proposing was actually championed initially by a game named Andy Stern, who used to run the SEIU. So if you look at his book, it's called "Raising the Floor," imagine the most prominent labor union leader in the country saying the future of labor is no labor, we are screwed, and we need to move to another way of distributing value as fast as possible. So that's Andy Stern.

And so because of that, when I sit with union leaders and I say, you know what's going to help your union membership is if you have a dividend of $1,000 a month because it ends up making it possible for unions to negotiate much harder, since then they have something they can fall back on?

So this is a very pro union plan. I'm fan of the right to organize. I actually was just with Leslie Smith, a UFC fighter who was fired because she tried to organize. And I've been trying to help her bring her case here to D.C. actually.

CABRERA: Mr. Yang, you've said of Bernie Sanders' plan in support of unions that it would turn back the clock and it wouldn't work to get fair treatment for workers through unions. Why don't you think that will be the solution?

YANG: Well, I'm a huge fan of unions, but we have to face facts where union membership has declined by almost 50 percent over the last number of decades, and their power has diminished accordingly. And so if we say, look, we're going to magically revive an economy of the '70s, where union membership is back to those levels, that's going to be a very, very steep hill to climb. I don't think we have the time to remake the workforce in that way. We should start distributing value directly to Americans. And this would have a byproduct of making workers and unions stronger.

CABRERA: All right. Let's bring in Ben Pitler. He works for a property management company here in Washington. Ben, what's your question?

QUESTION: All right, Andrew, we need a candidate or a Democratic nominee who can not only back up their own ideas, but also stand their ground against Donald Trump's bullying tactics and call out his political circus. Prove to us, if you can, right now, that you can be emotional, passionate and articulate to contend with Trump on the debate stage.

(APPLAUSE)

YANG: Oh, so fun. So when I was in Iowa, someone came up to me and said he cannot wait to see me debate Donald Trump because I'm laser- focused on the problems that got him elected but I'm his polar opposite. And what I've been saying is the opposite of Donald Trump is an Asian man who likes math.

(LAUGHTER)

(APPLAUSE)

But that said, my team and I have been joking about what Donald Trump's nickname for me will be.

(LAUGHTER)

[19:10:00] And we have come up with Comrade Yang.

(LAUGHTER)

But the truth is that there's this massive appetite among Americans for solutions that will actually improve their lives. I'm getting many, many Trump supporters to join and support my campaign, as well as conservatives, independents, libertarians, and of course Democrats and progressives. I am the candidate to beat Donald Trump because I'm focused on solving the problems that got him elected in the first place.

(APPLAUSE)

CABRERA: All right. We're just getting started. We'll be right back with much more from CNN's Democratic presidential town hall with Andrew Yang.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:14:40]

CABRERA: Welcome back to CNN's live Democratic presidential town hall with Andrew Yang.

We're going to get back to our audience questions in just a moment, but let me ask you, because I read your book, and you write in your book, "I grew up a skinny Asian kid in upstate New York who was often ignored or picked on, like one of the kids from 'Stranger Things' but nerdier and with fewer friends."

YANG: Yeah, sounds familiar.

CABRERA: "It stuck with me," you write. How did it stick with you? How did that shape your experience growing up?

YANG: Well, it made me always want to stick up for the underdog, the person who was left out or marginalized or ignored. And so when I grew up, one, I'm a Mets fan still, which -- they're like a perennial underdog. But when I'd go to an event or gathering, I would naturally find the person who was excluded or left out and try and include them and bring them in.

And now I've had a passion for entrepreneurship for the last 20 years. And who is being excluded or marginalized right now in America? Unfortunately, it's the working class Americans who are working two jobs. Seventy eight percent of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck. Fifty-seven percent can't afford an unexpected $500 bill. Our economy is not working for more and more Americans. And now I'm running for president to help change that and make us not the underdogs in our own land anymore.

CABRERA: You are the son of Taiwanese immigrants who came to the U.S. in the 1960s. And I know in your immigration plan, you support a pathway to citizenship for all undocumented immigrants currently in this country. But you say, quote, "It must reflect the fact that these individuals tried to circumvent our legal immigration system." What do you mean by that?

YANG: Well, we have well over 12 million undocumented immigrants here in this country. And to me, the most logical and humane path forward is to create a pathway to citizenship for people who are here and undocumented, particularly for the Dreamers who've really known no other home but the United States of America.

And I say to people around the country, I'm the son of immigrants. I believe that immigrants make our country stronger and more dynamic. And so we should try and create a pathway forward to help integrate -- really, again, 12 million is a conservative estimate. There are many, many people who are here and undocumented that we should integrate into our formal economy and to society, if we can.

CABRERA: But what are you going to do to deter illegal immigration?

YANG: Well, so right now we have a migrant crisis on the southern border. And it's in part because the composition of the people who are showing up at the border is changing, where now it's people who are applying for asylum, and unfortunately we don't have the resources to process them in any kind of effective punctual or effective way, and so the waiting period is literally over a year in some cases.

So the basics are that we need to put more resources to work on our southern border. We need more facilities, case workers, asylum judges. Right now our Border Patrol is short thousands of people that they've been trying to hire for months because it's very hard for them to attract and retain people to very remote parts of this country.

CABRERA: Let's turn back to our audience now. And Constance Young, she's an activist and speaker here in Washington. Constance go ahead.

QUESTION: Over the last couple of years, we've seen a resurgence of white nationalist violence. As a survivor of the deadly car attack in Charlottesville, it is important to me that our next president addresses this issue immediately. Please explain how you will work to curtail this problem and also please explain whether you will support a bill that defines white nationalist violence as terrorism.

YANG: Well, first, congratulations to you, Constance, for your incredible work. Let's give her a round of applause.

(APPLAUSE)

And what you've been through. If the camera people would permit it, I would run out and give you a hug right now. I'm going to give you a hug in the next commercial break, because what you've been through sounds incredibly difficult and traumatic.

So to me, right now, this tribalism that's tearing our country apart, it's related to a dysfunctional economy, because if you feel like you don't have a future and your kids don't have a future and then someone comes up with this, for example, scapegoating immigrants or hateful ideologies, then you're much more subject to those. So by getting the economic boot off of people's throat, hopefully we can help alleviate this tribalism. I'm inspired by the work of Deeyah Khan, this filmmaker who engaged in

something called anti-ate. And so right now the temptation for many of us is just to condemn racism and hatred, which we should do because it has no place in our society. But then the next step after that is to actually convince the people that these hateful ideologies are incorrect. And that's more difficult, it's more painstaking, but over time, it's our best path forward to hopefully convince people that there is no place for hate in the United States of America.

CABRERA: Mr. Yang, you may know that white nationalists are supporting you online. They seem to have seized on some of your statements, which they say are proof that you are particularly concerned about white people. Why do you think they're drawn to your candidacy?

YANG: You know, it's been a point of confusion, because I don't look much like a white nationalist.

(LAUGHTER)

The closest thing we could come up with for it was that I sent -- I retweeted the New York Times saying that Americans are dying of opiates in record numbers, so much so that more people are dying than being born in various communities, and those communities are largely white communities in the Midwest and the South. So I've completely disavowed any of that support. I don't want the support of anyone who has any kind of agenda that's different than the agenda of this campaign. And our slogan is humanity first. We're trying to solve the problems and improve the lives for tens of millions of Americans.

[19:20:00]

CABRERA: In your book, you do say the group I worry about most is poor whites. Why are you most concerned about that group, poor whites?

YANG: Well, in the context of my book, I was suggesting, to Constance's point, like, how is this tribalism and violence going to manifest itself? And so the group I was more worried about was poor whites who felt like they had no future, and then that violence would emerge in large part because that group would become increasingly angry and distressed. And so that's the context of the book. But I am most concerned about that group in terms of the nationalism that Constance was describing.

CABRERA: All right. Let's turn back to our audience questions. Our next guest here is Jose Altamirano. He's a program assistant at Georgetown University. Jose?

QUESTION: Hi, Mr. Yang. Rising health care costs and the threat of losing one's insurance is a concern for many Americans. What is your position on Medicare for all? And how do you plan to address the challenge of providing health care for over 30 million uninsured Americans?

YANG: It's a great question. It's on the minds of many, many Americans. I'm in the Medicare for all public option camp, generally an applause line in groups like this. No?

(APPLAUSE)

Right now, we're spending twice as much on our health care to worse effects than other countries. We're spending 18 percent of GDP. And one of the things that is confusing about this is people are like, where are you going to get the money? Which is completely incorrect. We're spending twice as much than other countries. If we channel our existing resources and negotiate lower drug prices, lower rates, we can get the access up and the prices down and make it so that the people who are struggling -- it is immoral that in the richest, most advanced economy in the world, we are more stressed out about navigating our byzantine, dysfunctional health care system when our loved ones get sick or injured than we are actually caring for them and helping them get well.

(APPLAUSE)

CABRERA: Let me bring in now Emmet Ryan. He's a student at the University of Maryland. Go ahead, Emmet.

QUESTION: Mr. Yang, like your son, I am on the autism spectrum. And while I can't speak for the other Americans on the same spectrum, I can say in confidence, I'd like to not be speaking to you today about support, the same support that the Trump administration has threatened to cut funding for. Would you be able to (inaudible) your plan to protect these programs along with programs that currently don't receive any federal funding?

YANG: Yeah, so, in case you hadn't gathered, like Emmet, my older son is on the autism spectrum. And my wife and I figured that out when he was turning 4. And it was a massive relief to us, because as first time parents, you know, you don't know if you're -- you know, it's like, maybe this is perfectly normal. Maybe we're just terrible parents. Like, you know, a lot of things go through your minds.

But then when we realized that he was on the autism spectrum, it's been this tremendous journey for our family. And I know what families go through. We need to dramatically redouble and invest in helping families with children who are developmentally different or neurologically atypical.

And as the parent of someone who is atypical, I now think atypical is the new typical. And so we need to be able to do more for those families, and as president I would champion a federal program to help funnel money into the schools in our communities and make sure that that burden is not on the states. This is a federal responsibility and a federal initiative I will be thrilled to lead. So thank you for your question, Emmet.

(APPLAUSE)

CABRERA: You say -- and I think this is a really important follow-up question, because I know this is such a personal issue to you. You say you want to destigmatize autism. How would you do that? YANG: Well, part of it is just that I'm so open talking about it.

You know, I'm fairly confident I am not the first politician or even presidential candidate with autism in their family. But for whatever reason, it's swept under the rug as something to be ashamed of, which to me makes absolutely no sense. I'm very proud of my son and anyone who has someone on the spectrum in their family feels the exact same way. So that's for starters.

But, number two, then if we invest these resources -- because right now, part of the stigma is you feel like you have to provide more for your kid and then you go to the public school and they're like, well, we can't help your kid, and then you end up feeling marginalized through that process and your child does, too. So if they show up to that public school and say, hey, great news, here's this whole suite of resources for your child, then we can alleviate the stigma in the most important way, which is actually when the parent shows up to the school with their child.

(APPLAUSE)

CABRERA: Andrew Yang, thank you. Thank you all for staying with us. We'll be right back with much more from CNN's Democratic presidential town hall.

[19:25:00]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CABRERA: Welcome back to CNN's live Democratic presidential town hall with Andrew Yang. We're going to jump right to our next question from Chris Carey. He's a student at Catholic University, a member of the College Democrats, and currently interns for the House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal. Go ahead, Chris.

QUESTION: With such terrible acts as the Parkland shooting happening with more frequency in recent years, what concrete legislative steps would you promote as president in order to ensure the safety of the United States, as well as protecting Second Amendment rights?

YANG: As a parent, I can only imagine what children are experiencing when they go to school and actually have to worry about doing drills for school shootings. And I was horrified, like many other Americans, with the Parkland shooting and the other shootings particularly in schools around the country, but also in public areas.

So I am pro-gun safety. I think that we should treat guns in a very similar way to the way we treat motor vehicles, where you have to get licensed and tested because vehicles can kill people, and firearms do the same thing. And we should be having federal background checks around mental illness and criminal records and domestic violence and other background elements that would make it problematic for someone to have access to a gun.

[19:30:05]

Now, it's going to be very, very difficult to come to agreement because many Americans feel very strongly about this on both sides. So in parallel to this, I would invest in a massive mental health initiative, because if we can help get mental health resources into the hands of more Americans, we can address some of these incidents of gun violence before they happen.

My brother is a psychology professor, and I know that we can do much, much more. We have a mental health crisis in this country, and we need to rise to the challenge and address it.

CABRERA: Digging in to your gun safety plan just a little bit more, you mentioned background checks. I know you want people to have safety classes, would require a gun locker or trigger lock purchases, among these different tiers in order to get that license. You know, many gun advocates will note that, sure, people who are law-abiding citizens would follow through, but maybe not criminals. How would you address that?

YANG: Yeah, and this is one of the central challenges. There are over 300 million firearms in this country, the vast majority of which are held by law-abiding Americans. We're the most heavily armed society in the history of the world. And any laws you pass are going to be obviously much more adhered to by Americans who follow the law than criminals. And so this is one of the points of contention that makes agreement very, very hard to come to, but I'm convinced that there's a consensus around commonsense gun legislation that responsible gun owners and people who are gun safety advocates can agree on.

CABRERA: OK, let's get right back to our audience questions with Zakiyyah Jones. She's a student at Trinity Washington University, originally from Ohio. Go ahead, Zakiyyah.

QUESTION: How do your ideas on the decriminalization of opioids differentiate between addicted individuals and drug suppliers?

YANG: It's a tremendous question. And I always put on to the need to decriminalize opioids -- first are the facts, where eight Americans are dying of drug overdose every hour. This is a plague. And it's so and that it's actually reduced our nation's life expectancy for the last three years. Drug overdoses and suicides have overtaken vehicle deaths as causes of death in America.

Now the federal government was complicit in enabling this opiate epidemic because the government stood by while Purdue Pharma dispensed hundreds of thousands of OxyContin prescriptions as a non-addictive wonder drug, and now we're all grappling with the aftereffects.

So when I was in Iowa campaigning, a high school senior came up to me and he said there are high school seniors in my school that have fentanyl patches and are addicted to opiates, and how can we get them treatment when they're afraid they're going to get sent to jail if they step up and say I have a problem?

And so when I saw this, I said, wow, we have to do more to help get treatment into the hands of that teenager's classmates. And I looked into international examples. There have been countries, including Portugal, that have decriminalized opiate use for personal use.

And the way they make that distinction is they say if you have more than a week's supply of personal use, then we may treat you as a dealer or supplier or someone who's actually engaged in a criminal enterprise, and then it's illegal. But if we just catch you with a quantity that suggests that you're just using it personally, then instead of referring you to a jail cell, we refer you to treatment. And that is what we need to do right here in the United States.

(APPLAUSE)

CABRERA: So you want to -- you want to decriminalize small amounts of opioid use and possession? Does that include heroin?

YANG: Yes, it does. We need to decriminalize opiates for personal use. And as you might not be surprised to hear from that, like, I'm also for the legalization of cannabis. We need to remove that from the federal controlled substance.

CABRERA: So cannabis and opioids, including heroin. Any other illegal drugs you want to decriminalize?

YANG: It would be the opiates that are the most common, which unfortunately right now include heroin and fentanyl.

CABRERA: What about cocaine?

YANG: Cocaine would not be on the list of substances I would engage in this, because the addiction has very different features.

CABRERA: OK. Let's move on to our next audience question. Let me bring in Justine Revelle. She is originally from North Carolina, is now studying law at Howard University. She also interns for Democratic Congresswoman Frederica Wilson. Justine?

QUESTION: Hi, Andrew. Many of America's biggest cities have undergone demographic and economic shifts under the wave of gentrification. The overflow of new grocery stores, restaurants, bars, and resources in general bring life and excitement to previously underserved communities. However, as these shifts occur, many long- time residents are forced out of their homes and in the worst of cases onto the streets. What policies would you promote for affordable housing?

YANG: It's a problem that American communities are struggling with around the country. And it's particularly and in areas in D.C., where the cost of housing has skyrocketed. There are a handful of supercities in the U.S. where the cost of housing has shot up.

[19:35:00]

Now, there are some things the federal government can do. A lot of it is around communities and municipalities, because they have the most direct access to zoning ordinances.

I would suggest that putting $1,000 a month into Americans' hands of portable income would make it so that people are much better able to find housing that works for them. You could even live with four or five of your friends or relatives, pool that income, and hopefully even maybe invest in a fixer upper.

So there's a lot we need to do. Certainly as president, I would invest in trying to increase the supply of affordable housing, because right now, there's a lot of NIMBYism, where a lot of cities are like, hey, I love the idea of affordable housing, but if you try and build it around my rich people, then they'll get very upset, so I don't want to do it.

So what we have to do is we have to lift some of the zoning restrictions on construction of affordable housing. And that would be a priority of mine as president.

(APPLAUSE)

CABRERA: This is Rachel May. She's a former elementary school teacher, now studies law at Howard University. Rachel?

QUESTION: Good evening. The United States stands as one of the most affluent nations in the world, and yet our education system consistently ranks near the bottom of the list of developed nations in the recent years. Teachers often bear the brunt of the blame for this phenomenon, and yet our country continues to pay them very, very low salaries. What is your plan for supporting our nation's teachers while promoting our academic success?

YANG: Well, congratulations on being a schoolteacher and now going to law school. I mean, those are both tremendous careers. I think it's policy number 14 on my website, Yang2020.com, is pay teachers more.

(APPLAUSE)

And this was not a feel-good measure. This is an investment in ourselves. The data shows that a good teacher is worth his or her weight in gold, in terms of the increased education outcomes for all of the children in their classrooms. And when you look at the data, teachers are the most important variable consistently.

The problem is that we run around and say, oh, I'm going to get some laptops in their hands. I'm going to, like, you know, get a consultant. Like they'll figure this out. It comes out of the teacher, first and foremost. And we need to attract and retain the best teachers we can find, and we will all be better off for it.

CABRERA: You say pay them more, but how much more?

YANG: Well, it depends upon the environment and the context. But it's significantly more. I mean, most teachers have had marginal cost of living increases over the last number of years.

I also want to follow up on this and say the data shows -- and as a teacher, you probably know this -- the data shows that about 75 percent of kids' academic performance is determined by non-school factors. So that's parent time, parent income, stress levels in the home, the type of neighborhood.

So teachers are being put in an impossible position where we're paying them too little, we're saying educate our kids even though you can only control 25 percent to 30 percent of the educational outcomes, and they know this. So if we are serious about educating our children, we need to get money into the hands of the parents and families. If we put $1,000 a month in the hands of every parent, that's going to give the kids an honest chance to learn.

CABRERA: Stay with us. We'll be back with much more from CNN's Democratic presidential town hall with Andrew Yang.

[19:38:20]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CABRERA: Welcome back to CNN'S live Democratic presidential town hall with Andrew Yang.

(APPLAUSE)

OK, so you've said as president, you would appoint a news and information ombudsman who would have the power to punish those who are seeking to misinform the American public. And you say there should be penalties for persistent and destructive misstatements statements that undermine public discourse. Do you really think you should police speech?

YANG: Well, right now, we're on the verge of a very difficult time. So Americans can't trust what we see, and this is before deep fakes hit the internet, where they can literally just doctor it so you and I have a conversation and it seems like we're saying whatever it is they want us to say.

And there are foreign actors that are maliciously actually corrupting our Democratic processes and then, frankly, having a good laugh about it, like on the other side of the world, like they're investing a relatively modest sum of money and they're seeing it's causing havoc.

So as a society, what is the greater danger here? Is the greater danger that we're just going to descend into cacophony and no one can even agree on the facts anymore? Because in this day and age, it would be extraordinarily hard for the government to somehow curb or sensor in a systematic way. But we have to be able to sort out people who are maliciously informing the American people, and that to me is a much greater danger that we face right now.

CABRERA: How do you police it?

YANG: Well, I looked at what happens in other societies. And for example, in the U.K., they have BBC. They have this committee -- they have the equivalent of the ombudsman, and then you just file a complaint, and then they take it under review, and then they go to the news organization and say, hey, you need to issue a retraction, you need to issue an apology, and in some cases, there are fines attached. So if they can do that, why can't we? CABRERA: So are you specifically talking about potentially penalizing news organizations?

YANG: Well, the vast majority of responsible news organizations would have absolutely nothing to worry about, because it's not like CNN is going around like deliberately spreading misinformation about various individuals and organizations. But there are bad actors that are doing this very willfully and deliberately.

So it would apply to CNN, but CNN would have no issue with this like 99.999 percent of the time.

CABRERA: I'd say 100 percent of the time.

(LAUGHTER)

YANG: I agree.

CABRERA: This is your town hall, so let me bring in Zachary Israel. He works at a bipartisan consulting firm here in Washington. He is the D.C. Young Democrats National Committee man. Zachary, what's your question?

YANG: Wow.

QUESTION: Hi, Andrew. So my question is, why have you decided not to run for a lower political office other than for president, especially since there are so many other candidates running in the 2020 Democratic presidential primary who have significantly more political experience than you do?

YANG: So imagine being the guy who had gotten awards and accolades and had a movie made about his organization for helping create thousands of jobs throughout the Midwest and the South, and then realizing that you're pouring water into a bathtub that has a giant hole ripped in the bottom, and that we're in the process of automating away millions of American jobs and the country cannot for some reason understand that it is immigrants that are causing these dislocations, it is technology.

[19:45:10]

Now, we do not have that much time. It's only 5 to 10 years before the trucks -- the truck driving gets automated away in significant ways. And so if you looked at that situation and you said, if I can help my country understand what is happening to it and advance meaningful solutions, then that's exactly what I'm going to do.

CABRERA: All right. Our next guest here is Luke Caruso. He's studying business at the George Washington University. Luke?

QUESTION: Hi. What are your thoughts on U.S. intervention?

YANG: So that's a very broad question.

QUESTION: I know. I'm referring more specifically. They told me not to edit it. I was going to specify. I was referring more specifically to -- in the economic and foreign affairs of other nations, not just in Middle East and South America and Eastern Europe and elsewhere?

YANG: So when you first asked intervention, what I thought of was military intervention. And if you look at our history over the last number of years, America has gotten itself enmeshed in conflicts. We've spent well over $1 trillion -- closer to $2 trillion, cost thousands of American lives and tens of thousands of non-American lives, sometimes to very unclear gains.

And so foreign policy and the standard for intervention under my presidency, first, I would push back the ability to declare war back to Congress where it belongs.

(APPLAUSE)

And second, I would be very judicious and restrained about intervening in other country's affairs, where if we go in significantly, there are going to be vital national interests at stake that we can achieve in a defined timeframe.

CABRERA: You say we have deluded ourselves into thinking that we are capable of doing things that we are not. What are the things the U.S. is not capable of doing?

YANG: So what we are terrible at right now is rebuilding. And you don't have to look very far. You can just look at our own communities or even Puerto Rico.

If the United States wanted to rebuild Puerto Rico, we don't even know how to do it. We would just cut a check to a group of private contractors who would siphon off some of the money to themselves and then hope for the best.

(APPLAUSE)

So we have deluded ourselves going into other countries and saying we're somehow going to steward them into rebuilding, and we're terrible at it, and we need to own what we can do and cannot do. And that's one of the things I'll be very clear-eyed about as president.

CABRERA: Let me bring in Analeigh Hughes. She's a student at the University of Maryland. She's been living with Type 1 diabetes for 16 years. Analeigh?

QUESTION: Hi. So the rising cost of insulin, along with many other drugs that are necessary to sustain life, is a problem plaguing many Americans that live with chronic illnesses such as myself. So this had led to many people taking desperate measures, such as rationing insulin, that have led to death in many cases. So what will you do to combat this issue?

YANG: I have talked to dozens, maybe hundreds of Americans around the country who have had to make terrible, tragic, horrific choices, where they're choosing between medicine and food or medicine and food for their children, and it has to stop.

Now, one of the virtues of this Medicare for all plan is that if we expand public access, we can get the prices for insulin and other drugs way, way down. One of the things I would stipulate almost immediately as president is, look, you have to charge the American people the best price you are charging other people in other countries, because there are times when they are charging us 10 times what they're charging people in another country. And how does that make sense?

So we have to make it so that people like you do not have to make those sorts of choices, and obviously if you have medicine you rely on, you should be getting that without having to strain yourself economically.

(APPLAUSE)

CABRERA: Charles Wilson is the chair of the D.C. Democratic State Committee. He's an associate at a consulting firm. Charles, what's your question?

QUESTION: Good evening. What are you plans to address epidemics associated with people opting out of vaccines or anti-vaxxers?

YANG: Oh. Well, I'm a huge champion of science. My father is a PhD who generated 69 U.S. patents for GE and IBM. And some people have taken to calling my presidential campaign the revolution of reason.

And so if the science holds, which it does, that vaccinating young children is vital for the public health, then we just need to do a better job at convincing parents that that's what they should do.

The tough part here is that we're in an era of the collapse of institutional trust, where Americans do not trust -- we don't trust our government. We don't trust the media. We don't trust the schools. And unfortunately, we don't trust doctors. And so when the doctor says, hey, get a vaccine, then parents are like, you know what, I think I might not.

[19:50:00]

And so there's this massive rebuilding of trust that we have to earn with the American people across many institutions, and, unfortunately, our health care establishment is one of them.

(APPLAUSE)

CABRERA: We're going to be right back, make you have a drink of water. Stretch it out a little bit, because there's much more from CNN's Democratic presidential town hall with Andrew Yang.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(APPLAUSE)

CABRERA: Welcome back to CNN's live Democratic presidential town hall with Andrew Yang. I want to bring in -- wow. We've got a fired-up crowd tonight. Philip Pannell is here with a question. He is the executive director for a nonprofit organization organization and active in the D.C. Democratic Party. Philip?

QUESTION: Good evening, Mr. Yang. As a gay African-American senior citizen who lives in the poorest ward in the District of Columbia, I am intimately and acutely aware of what it means to be marginalized and neglected.

[19:55:00]

Being a resident of our nation's capital also makes me a second-class citizen, because D.C. has no voting representation in our national legislature. Do you support statehood for the District of Columbia, which has more residents than Wyoming and Vermont?

(APPLAUSE)

YANG: You can tell -- you can tell that's going to be a popular question here in D.C., but I'm 100 percent for D.C. statehood. You should have been a state a long time ago.

(APPLAUSE)

And I am also for Puerto Rican statehood, which is also long overdue.

(APPLAUSE)

And, you know, and one of the -- it's like a statement I make is that if Puerto Ricans looked like Swedes, they would have been Americans a long time ago.

(APPLAUSE)

CABRERA: I want to bring in Kishan Putta. He lives here in Washington, and he works in health care. Kishan?

QUESTION: Yes, thank you. And I'm also the chair of the D.C. Democrats Asian Pacific Islander Caucus. So thanks for being here. It's actually my 45th birthday today. Nice to spend it with all of you here today.

(APPLAUSE)

And my question is, how can we encourage more Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders to get involved in public affairs and to seek leadership roles in government and politics? And thanks for running.

YANG: Oh, thank you. It's a massive challenge, because right now Asian Americans vote, donate, and run for office at lower levels than other parts of the population. And certainly growing up as a skinny Asian kid, my parents weren't like, "Oh, you're going to run for president someday." That was not -- that was not the conversation. It was doctor, lawyer, and then the list stopped, more or less.

(LAUGHTER) So we certainly have to do more to show Asian Americans that we need

to step up. We need to give back to this country that has done so much for us. And I'm optimistic that my run for the presidency will help make that case to people around the country.

QUESTION: Thank you.

(APPLAUSE)

CABRERA: You mentioned your parents never imagined you running for president. I understand when you told your mother you were going to run for president, her reaction was, "That's nice."

YANG: Yeah, it was like, "That's nice. Can you, like, pass the salt?" I think something along those lines.

(LAUGHTER)

CABRERA: What does she think now?

YANG: Oh, now she loves it. Now she's very excited about it. But there was a period when my family was -- I think -- I wouldn't say -- they were, like, concerned, was the word I'd use, or anxious, because many parents -- you know, you'd be anxious if one of your children decided to do something like at that level. But now I have no bigger fans than Mama and Papa Yang.

CABRERA: Well, and you said Papa Yang, too. What does he say?

YANG: Well, he tells me to stay strong, stay healthy, be good to his grandsons, and try and be home every chance I get.

CABRERA: And what is the best advice you've received from your parents about running for president?

YANG: Well, they said to be true to yourself and just make the case to the American people about why you're honestly running, and then the American people will then see that motivation, and then help us hopefully evolve to the next version of our economy to really rise to the challenges of the 21st century.

CABRERA: All right, Andrew Yang, thank you for being here.

YANG: Oh, thank you. So much fun.

(APPLAUSE)

CABRERA: Thank you to our great studio audience. And all of you at home. Be sure to tune in a week from tomorrow at 7:00 p.m. Eastern here on CNN for five back-to-back Democratic presidential town halls with Senators Amy Klobuchar, Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, Bernie Sanders, and Mayor Pete Buttigieg live from New Hampshire. That's April 22nd. "CNN Newsroom" starts right now.

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